Snuggle, Snuggle, Coil, and Nuzzle

(With apologies to Shakespeare's Fates)

Personal Note: Henceforth, personal notes will come at the end of posts, because they sometimes mess with Title/first line flow.

For those of you who haven't had it bludgeoned into you yet, tomorrow is Valentine's Day (if I just saved your bacon by giving you enough time to grab something not utterly crappy, you're welcome; my usual fee will be fine).

A slightly lesser-known fact about tomorrow is it's also my 31st birthday (yes, I know. I wouldn't buy it, either, 'cept I've got this legal document and all), which means A. I hated Valentine's Day growing up (lots of long-distance boyfriends *sigh*), and B. my husband is doubly screwed if he forgets either one. Not that he would, because he's completely Awesome.

Anyway, poor N. is working my birthday this year, so we celebrated with dinner and a movie yesterday, exchanging gifts afterward. Before we left for our date N. hinted my Valentine's Day wasn't chocolate, but he'd put a lot of thought into it. Well, I did tell you he's awesome.

Oh, there was a lot of thought in N.'s gift. You couldn't argue that. The question is, were those thoughts had while he was in his right mind? The boy bought me a Snuggie. the pink frosting-colored one. It's incredibly romantic, right? I mean, yards and yards of puke-pink fleece screams sexy.
In case you're worried, I did not react badly. I laughed my butt off. I didn't stop laughing for fifteen minutes.

Because, technically, the boy's intentions were good. He made some really good points. I'm always cold while I sit on the couch writing, reading, watching TV. The color is because the one he bought supports breast cancer research, and he knows how much I love buying products supporting causes if I can. I love 'feely' material. To the boy these are all really great, logical, loving reasons to buy your wife a Snuggie.
And while I would never in a million years categorize a Snuggie as romantic, I got it. So, I laughed. And came up with several nicknames for myself while wearing it, names like "Bubble Gum Gandalf", and "Druid Barbie".
But I didn't tell you this story ONLY because it was funny. I've let you in on it because it's a decent illustration of a great little plot thing called 'misinformation'. Whether it be malicious gossip sent around the countryside to blacken the name of a rival or just a bad case of information starting out meaning one thing, but losing bits and pieces along the way until it means something else and all hades breaks loose, misinformation can be your vehicle to all sorts of plot hijinkery.
My absolute favorite use of misinformation is the version I think of as 'incomplete information', and if you want a good example of one person thinking he or she knows something, but knowing NOTHING, of sitting there, reading along, practically screaming in your head, "Would someone please just tell them they're both right!", because if no one does they are going to ruin their whole lives, read almost any book by Judith McNaught (hey, I don't want to hear any crap about it being a paperback romance novel; the woman can twist like she learned it from Chubbie Checker). I particularly like Almost Heaven. Badass, cruel-when-wounded geniuses are my weakness.
So, think of that the next time you want to make a reader cringe with anticpatory frustration. It's the kind of torture we'll pay you for.
And because, dear reader, I love you and I know you are only laughing WITH me, I give you this (be kind, I beg of you):

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Okay, so I realize I probably don't have the kind of readers with money to burn lying around, but I do have the kind of heart that wants to help her friends. If you have some change in your pocket, or one of those jars, you know, the big ones you keep coins in? Count out a little of it and set it aside for the following.

You see that? A community center to help teach writers! You may not be in Utah, but there are a ton of would-be writers who are, people like the bulk of my readers who are in varying stages of reaching for that dream, and this will be their open door.

What is passion, but fire? Art, but beauty?

P.S. And yes, I donated some money, too.

Today's P.S.

This is just kind of awesome.

Some of the Best Things Begin with 'PL'

Personal Note: It's almost inevitable I'll "steal" st least one article of my husband's clothing during the day. He's not thrilled with it, but as long as I stay away from his most beloved sweatshirts or whatever he doesn't complain too loudly*. I usually keep it to a tee shirt or his socks, but I sometimes steal his belt (YAY! for "wiry" men!), and I pretty much steal his old Vaan's EVERY DAY because I don't want to dig out my ballet slipper Skechers to pick up the boys from school.

He hates that most of all. Hee.

Some people call it 'planning'. Evil people and book people (not a mutally exclusive or inclusive couple of species) call it plotting. Either way, it means thinking ahead. Two things have brought these things to the forefront of my thoughts (besides, you know, writing a novel).

First, the amazingly upbeat, gracious, and intuitive Jodi Meadows has written a post about the need for authors to challenge characters. If you're writing a book, or think you might one day want to take a crack at writing one, I HIGHLY advise you get over there and bookmark that post. Jodi tackles the 'lesson' in such a way that both visual and practical thinkers alike will be able to take away something valuable from it. I'd describe the post in more detail, but it's better if you just go over there and see for yourself.

Secondly, this morning I was a little off my game getting boys to school, and my brain was assimilating info in weird orders. For one thing, I have my young nephew A. today, and it's been a while since I've had a four-year-old. He falls into that gap between my own three boys, so I was kind of at a loss about what to do with him for a while. I knew the novelty of A's presence would make the boys scatterbrained, too. So, I was rushing around, trying to think ahead.

Turns out I didn't need to try so hard. After A, Ben, and I got back from taking older boys to school, I grabbed my glasses, a bowl of cereal, and pair of socks, and planned to put them all to good use. I reached to put on my glasses, thinking clearly to myself, "I am putting on my glasses, now", but I didn't put on my glasses. some back part of my brain somewhere informed the voluntary action part of my brain, "Hey, wait a minute. We need control of the girl for just a second for maintenance reasons" and that back part instructed my hand to rub my eyes and my nose, and wipe my face. My brain was already thinking ahead. Instead of putting on my glasses only to have to take them back off again, my brain knew the better order was "Rub, rub, wipe, THEN put on glasses". My brain 'overrode' me.

What does this mean about plotting? Is it a cautionary tale against trying too hard? Do we instinctively know all the who's, what's, what's, when's, and why's of storytelling, but we're so focused on 'getting it perfect' we forget we know them. I think sometimes we need to put all our 'parts' in front of ourselves and just take a deep breath. The big picture might come into better focus.

*Also, I think it helps I explained a big part of this clothing theft involves me feeling closer to him while he's at work . . . except the shoes, of course. That's just pure laziness on my part. *wink*

Dude Looks Like a Lady

Personal Note: Yeah, it's a weird title, but it suits this PN . . . and I like Aerosmith. Okay, so if you don't know this, I refer to my closest beta readers as "My Ladies", because all of them are female. But! I do have male betas. Some of them are even man enough to be a Lady. Hence . . . well, you get it. So, for my babe-alicious boy betas, come on, rock out your frou-frou coffee and get with us. Some of us are even single. *waggles eyebrows suggestively toward Bri*

Also, special note. Kathleen Ortiz is being extremely gracious and hosting a contest: winner gets a Red Marker Deluxe go-over of his or her query letter, which is nothing to look in the mouth. Have a mosey over to Neverending Page Turner, and when you comment, tell her I sent you.

I feel--and this is an entirely arguable point--there are basically three main sorts of realistic bad guys in the realm of, well, anywhere really, but for the purposes of today, we're going with literature. Yes, generally all villains are tagged by their directly opposing the goals of the hero or heroine, but there's a lot to be said in there, and when writing a villain an author has to decide just what sort of animal she's working with, which species is best to set against her conquering hero. Yes, the antagonist can be any subset or combination of the three main types, but here's how I (disclaimer: usually) break down a a rival in any story I come across:

  1. The Sympathetic Villain Yeah, many a romance novel can tell you, just as a hero can be "anti", a villain can have a little somethin' somethin' going for him to make us see where he's coming from. Either he lost the love of his life back in the day, or he really truly believes the hero is in the wrong (although the reader knows this to be untrue), but for whatever reason some little part of us feels bad for this bad guy. It's possible this madman is charming, beautiful, charismatic, or thrilling. Maybe we even kind of-just a little bit-want him to get his way. We definitely hope there's justice for him, too, in the end. Example: Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth.
  2. The Unintentional Villain This dude just had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's not very smart, or attractive, or anything, really. He's usually at a loss, and if he does manage to cause trouble, it's almsost certainly accidental, something that just worked to his advantage, even if he didn't plan it out. He may have been the main henchman to someone with some real E-VILE potential at one point, but Master got blown out of the water somewhere along the way, leaving Igor flailing in his wake, trying to figure out how to get things done. And totally bombing. Example: Wormtail in the Harry Potter series.
  3. The Irredeemable Villain We hate this guy from the get go, and for good reason. We know there isn't a 'good' bone in his body. He's creative, cruel, and unrelenting. He will crush the heroine like the insignifcant bug she is, body, spirit and mind. He would sell his mother to Satan to attain his goals, but not his own soul because he believes himself far too important to let a little thing like Hell impede his plans. Even when he has assured himself the heroine is no longer a threat, he'll still continue to torture her for ever daring to oppose him. It isn't good enough for him to win, he must win AND ruin life for everyone else. Example: Capricorn in Cornelia Funke's Inkheart series, and since he's so fresh in my mind, President Snow in Collins's Hunger Games series.

And there's that. These opinions are brought to you by adjustments to my own Big Baddie, Horace Huckleby, now that I know what his real damage is. He's still a disgusting little toad, true, but now he's a disgusting little toad of a different color.


Personal Note: I am nagging you again. That poor SocialVibe badge to your left has been stuck at 57 minutes for a long time. Do another acitivy, if you don't mind taking three minutes. I think I'd actually rather you do the activity than read this post.

Today, after this post I’m going to write a post about how I see villains. And tension. But you won’t see this post until tomorrow, because I’m telling Blogger not to release it into the wild until then. Yeah, I know; I’m diabolical and crap*, as my friend Matt might say.

But first! An update about what’s going on here in Amethyst is Learning to be a Writer Land.

Top of the list, I have two extra humans to guide through homework and such in the afternoons, bringing my total to four students (and a toddler). The toddler isn’t slacking on needing my attention, though. He’s learning to use a potty, so he requires my attention every fifteen minutes or so. It almost killed me yesterday. Mondays generally have a lot of homework for all four older children, and this one was true to form.

Next, I’ve been reading. A lot. Because when the aforementioned favorite cousin came to visit, we (oh, unwise, unwise we) went into a bookstore (on a side note, if cash is a little tighter, but you have to see to your book thirst, I suggest heading into the Middle Grade section of your bookstore. Most paperbacks are under ten bucks there, and either those MG authors have stepped it up or the world at large has realized people in their early teens aren’t just elementary kids with things budding and sprouting—in other words, not idiots—and there are some really fantastic MG stand-alones and series to choose from). So far I've loved Lisa McMann’s Fade (have a total crush on her character "Cabel"), am having a little trouble getting into Pride and Predjudice and Zombies, not because I don't like it, or it isn't good, but because I am such a cannon loyalist. The book is different, and interesting, sure, but it's not catching me. I also really like Terry Pratchett's A Hat Full of Sky, sequel to his The Wee Free Men.

But. The cake-takers so far have been Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, and Catching Fire. These books are the first two in a trilogy, and I've been putting off reading them because I knew even before I bought one, after I'd read them, I'd be hit in the face just how much work I have to do on plot, tension points, and cliffhangers. Collins is a pro when it comes to these things. I can't say how surprised I've been while I read the books, because I knew so much going in, but even knowing what would happen I found myself flipping pages like crazy just to get the answers I needed. On the surface it all seems simple, when you describe it. Post-apocalyptic girl, fighting for her life and the lives of her loved ones. Easy, right? Noooo. Not easy, because Collins has made us all wonder just how girl is going to pull it off. We're all pretty sure we know where we're ending up, but getting there is just so amazing.

Anyway, I am once again convicted of my need to think ahead. I, too, am writing a trilogy. I'm studying writers who have totally nailed cliff-hangers, taking notes when I catch my breath, asking myself what about a certain feature or passage makes my brain go, "No! No, don't stop there, I have to know what happens!". Yes, the project feels enormous again. I knew it would. That's okay. I've got time. It's like I tell all those boys while I'm overseeing their homework: I'd rather take a little time and do it right now, than have to waste all that time having to RE-do it because it wasn't right in the first place.

Get ready to hold your breath. I plan on taking it away.

*Okay, so technically Matt would probably not use the word 'crap', but I'm editing his language in this hypothetical situation.